A Connecticut man who police believe is responsible for a series of sexual assaults on the East Coast has been arraigned in Virginia on charges of raping two teenage trick-or-treaters on Halloween in 2009.
Forty-year-old Aaron Thomas appeared in Prince William County Court via video. He was charged with eight felony counts.
Asked if he understood the charges against him, Thomas replied ``No,'' and asked for a court-appointed attorney.
A preliminary hearing was set for January 25, 2012.
Prosecutor Paul Ebert said he sought to try Thomas first because the charges against him in this jurisdiction are especially heinous, and that it was hard to imagine a more disturbing crime than what Thomas allegedly committed in the Woodbridge area on Halloween 2009 - abducting three trick-or-treaters at gunpoint in the Woodbridge area, and raping two 17-year-olds.
The third victim, age 16, was able to send a text message to her mother seeking help, and the attacker was forced to flee as police lights and sirens approached.
"When you have a serial rapist, it always strikes fear in the heart of the citizenry,'' Ebert said, noting that some parents had been reluctant to let their kids trick-or-treat after the attack.
In all, authorities believe Thomas is responsible for rapes and other attacks on 17 women from Virginia to Connecticut over the span of a decade. Many of the cases, including the Woodbridge rapes, are linked by DNA evidence, and police say a DNA sample obtained from a cigarette butt smoked by Thomas connects him to the crimes.